The Side of Silence

It is not uncommon (especially in recent days) to hear someone make a public statement that includes comments along the lines of “I just couldn’t stay silent any longer.”

One of the tactics used to encourage others to chime in and voice their support for the issue at hand is the accusation that to remain silent is to be “on the wrong side of history” . . . that silence is tacit approval of the “evil” being denounced.  There are two famous quotes to this effect, one misattributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer (“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”)1, and another misattributed to Edmund Burke (“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”)2.

Not-Bonhoeffer and Not-Burke are right that staying on the sidelines is not an option.  Silence cannot be equated with neutrality.  Declining to publicly proclaim your stance on a particular issue or conflict does not mean that you are not “helping” one side or the other.  The question is, which side is bolstered by your silence?

If you don’t make it a point to say #BlackLivesMatter, does that mean you’re okay with racism?
If you don’t object to the #BLM movement, is that an indication that you’re okay with Critical Race Theory and Marxist ideology?

If you refuse to put a rainbow on your profile pic, does that mean you’re a homophobic bigot?
If you don’t speak up against gay marriage, does that mean you’re on-board with allowing the sexual revolution to continue unabated?

Depending on the situation, your silence could benefit either side of these divisive issues. It requires wisdom and insight to recognize whose side will benefit the most from your silence.  The answer to that question may well depend on the context of your situation, who the audience is, what type of platform you have, etc.  However, do not mistake silence for neutrality.

On two occasions, Jesus addressed the actions and attitudes of those who were not his followers.  Despite not being his followers, neither group was neutral.  In one case he claimed them as allies (Mark 9:40 – “the one who is not against us is for us”), whereas in the other case he proclaimed them to be his adversaries (Matthew 12:30 – “whoever is not with me is against me”).

The determining factor was not based on their issuance of a public statement proclaiming their affiliation with Jesus or their opposition to Jesus.  Neither was their “side” determined by their failure to issue a public statement declaring themselves for or against Jesus.  Instead, it was their actions and attitudes that made the difference.

What actions and attitudes are you putting on display?  Are you furthering the cause of Jesus or the world?



Protesting Hate

Today, my wife and I stood for about an hour on a cold street corner before a variety of audiences.

On three corners of Fairfield and Airport Expressway stood a few dozen people holding American flags and a few signs.  We stood with these people, silently expressing our opposition to the hate on display on the fourth corner.  These co-counter-protesters were one audience, our presence communicating to them, “we’re with you.”  Unfortunately, some of our fellow counter-protesters unhelpfully expressed their disdain for the protesters on the other corner by shouting profanity at them.  I wish I could have told them, “I’m with you if you’re standing up for Christian love and patriotic honor, but I want no part of your counter-hate.”

Together, we told the audience of drivers and passengers in the passing traffic, “we honor our country and those who die in service to our country.  We oppose those who spew hatred.”  Some of those passing by tooted their horns appreciatively, expressing support and gratitude for our stand.  Others blew an extended blast of their horns at the hateful protesters as they drove by, extending the middle finger of fellowship through their window.  Unfortunately, some of the counter protesters cheered on this behavior.

On the other street corner, flanked by Fort Wayne police officers, four members of Westboro Baptist Church (WARNING: link to an offensive site) formed another audience.   They were there to protest America’s acceptance of homosexuality, happily rejoicing in the death of an American serviceman as evidence of God’s judgement.  We showed up to let them know that we disagree with the hateful things they say and the despicable way they spread their message.  (Denouncing homosexual behavior is not itself hateful, but the message of Westboro Baptist Church is filled with hate.)

I was also an audience member, on two counts.  For one, by putting my beliefs into action, I was demonstrating to myself that beliefs really matter, and beliefs should lead to action.  There are lots of people and things in this world that I disagree with, but I wouldn’t normally bother to protest most of them.  However, it is especially troublesome to have people who claim to be Christians, who claim to hold the truth of God’s Word, behave in such ungodly ways.  Because I cherish the truth of God’s Word and sincere devotion to following God’s commands, I felt that it was important to express my opposition to the way they twist God’s Word and character.

However, I was also an audience to the protesters from Westboro Baptist Church.  They weren’t just there for the passing traffic or the media.  As they waved their signs, trampled their American flags, and sang their songs, they were performing for those of us on the corners opposite them.  It makes me wonder if it would be better to just ignore them, rather than show up to be part of their audience.

Ray Boltz is gay

“Watch the Lamb” will never be the same.

Just a few weeks ago, via an interview with the Washington Blade (“The Gay and Lesbian News Source of Record – DC Gay News, National Gay News, Entertainment and Opinion”), Ray Boltz informed the public that he was gay. Apparently, he’s felt this way his whole life, admitted it to himself and his family in 2004, and become increasingly comfortable with it in the last few years.

One of Ray Boltz’s most popular songs, “Watch the Lamb” was one of the first contemporary Christian songs I ever heard, back in the 80’s when CCM consisted of Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Sandi Patti, Steve Green, Larnelle Harris, and a few others. When I first heard the song, it became one of my favorite songs, and I have always liked it.

It will never be the same for me, not because it changes the meaning of the song, or because I can no longer like the song. It’s still a great song, and I still like it. However, whenever I hear it from now on, I will be saddened that the author of the song took his eyes off the Lamb. Instead he turned his eyes to himself and the world around him, declaring that he knew the truth about himself, and looking to the world for affirmation.

After accepting his feelings of being gay, Boltz indicates that “there was a peace he hadn’t felt before” and that he had a “feeling that I didn’t hate myself anymore, so in that sense I felt closer to God.” I have to wonder, does he really have peace with the One True God, or does he have peace with a god of his own making?

Who is his authority? He says, “I felt that the church, that they had it wrong about how I felt with being gay all these years, so maybe they had it wrong about a lot of other things.” According to the article “he doesn’t want to get into debates about scripture.” He says, “I’m just an artist and I’m just going to sing about what I feel and write about what I feel and see where it goes.”

Boltz wrote in another popular song, “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb,” but he certainly isn’t allowing the Word become flesh to be his authority.

The other sad note from the article is the response of the Gospel Music Association. They provided a statement stating that “GMA is a trade organization that works for our members to promote gospel/Christian music, not a religious or political group. As such, we do not comment on the lifestyle choices of people in our community.” For a true follower of Christ, there is no distinction between business (trade) and the living out of our faith. To declare that lifestyle “choices” are not worthy of comment, is decidedly un-Christian.